Jordan Rocked by Biggest Protests in Years as Demonstrators Rally Against Austerity Measures

Tens of thousands protest austerity measures ■ Demonstrators demand PM's sacking ■ King may form new government

Demonstrators clash with riot police during a protest in Amman, Jordan, June 2, 2018
\ MUHAMMAD HAMED/ REUTERS

Tens of thousands of Jordanians took to the street over the weekend in protest of government-led economic reforms and called to depose Jordanian Prime Minister Hani al-Malichi. Protesters blocked off main roads, torched tires and confronted security forces in the biggest demonstrations the Hashemite kingdom has seen in years.

>> Jordan and Lebanon are going broke – and Israel should worry | Opinion  Israel warily watches as Jordan rocked by biggest protests in years

The protests began Thursday night with the breaking of the Ramadan fast. Thousands of protesters took to the streets across the kingdom – In the Irbid and Jarash provinces, the cities of Amman, Aqaba, Salt, Al-Karak and the Jordan Rift area – demanding to cancel the raising of taxes and staple food, which they claim will increase poverty and distress.

Several hundreds of protesters demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister's Office in Amman. They blamed the government for deepening poverty and accused leaders of trying to close the budget deficit with draconian decisions at the expense of the working class. Despite the protesters' rage, it seemed in most cases that security forces are showing restraint, and that protesters themselves are trying to avoid physical confrontations with them.

Jordanian protesters during a demonstration outside the Prime Minister's office, Amman, Jordan, June 2, 2018
KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP

On Friday, King Abdullah II intervened and ordered to delay the decisions to raise petrol prices. The royal palace is also communicating with the protest organizers in an attempt to calm the storm. At this stage, they are considering meeting more demands by the protesters, and it is possible the king will order the formation of a new government and elect a new parliament.

Jordan Rocked by Biggest Protests in Years as Demonstrators Demand PM's Sacking

Jordan's economy has deteriorated in the last few years for several reasons, among which are the conduct of recent governments and the intake of over a million Syrian refugees. Despite the protests, opposition circles have not called to oust the government or king, who's is seen as a stabilizing factor and a keeper of the kingdom's institutions.

Meanwhile, the kingdom's stability is a supreme security concern from Israel's standpoint. At this point, officials in Jerusalem are closely following the demonstrations in Jordan as well as the regime's efforts to halt the protest.